Examine The Relationship Between Power And Knowledge In Contemporary Development Geography Essay

2407 words - 10 pages

A stimulating method for addressing the complexity and confusion of contemporary development’s numerous facets is Foucault’s dispositif. Foucault (1980: p. 194) outlines his notion of dispositif as a “thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions.” The elements of this ‘apparatus’ are set within a “system of relations…established between these elements” (Foucault, 1980: p. 194). Brigg and Escobar have applied this key relational aspect to development unlocking an avenue that avoids the tendency by many postdevelopment writers to view development as immovable and uniform. To place Foucault’s dispositif in a development setting creates an apparatus of a complex ensemble of institutions, resource flows, projects, discourses and practices. The relationship between these elements can be characterized in terms of knowledge and power. While these dimensions of power and knowledge bind together the apparatus, they cannot be reduced to them; they constantly imply one another. As Escobar (2005) describes the wide set of complex elements in the development dispositif may operate separately, but together in their relational form they function as a dominant strategic function to produce, map and govern the Third World. This essay will use the framework introduced by Foucault to investigate how the development dispositif as the sum of its individual parts produces and manages the relationship between power and knowledge in contemporary development.
Before delving into the ways in which power and knowledge command contemporary development it is necessary to isolate the relationship of these terms outside of it. Power and knowledge have a two relationship with Alvares (1992: p.230) noting that “knowledge is power, but power is also knowledge.” Here it is fundamental to understand that power has the ability to decide what is and what is not knowledge. Similarly the acquisition of knowledge does not merely validate an imposition of power; it is an imposition of power (DuBois, 1991). To use a Foucauldian line of thinking here draws a connection between this inextricably close link between truth and power that can be joined together though the medium of discourse. Discourse should not be considered to be value-free: in producing knowledge through discourse power produces “domains of objects and rituals of truth” (Foucault, 1979: p.194). Development as a discourse as Escobar (2005) notes cannot be viewed as an expression of thought, but is a practice embedded within rules, conditions and historical transformations. An example of this at work in development discourse is self-perception that has moulded the developed-developing dichotomy (DuBois, 1991). The power relations that are conjured up create normative paradigms of development. How societies are judged is an example of one of these normat...


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